As a child I didn’t even know that gay people existed. I thought I was the only boy in the entire world attracted to other boys. I thought something was wrong with me.
I repressed my feelings so much that nobody even knew I was gay. Because of that I didn’t suffer the way other people perceived to be gay suffered. Eventually I discovered that homosexuality was a real thing.
After college I went to graduate school in Massachusetts. I was with a woman but we didn't sleep together – so I slept with other men. Eventually a shrink convinced me to tell my girlfriend that I was bisexual. The next few months were very traumatic because I became known as a bi-sexual man. Back then when you identified as a gay person your sexuality defined who you were. But why did that happen to bi-sexual people and gay people and not heterosexual people?
I found reprieve living in communes in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There were communes all over the country in the late 60's and early 70's. They were places where people could aggregate and go to political demonstrations…but they were much more than that – everything was a democratic process and we even had food COOPs where we planted, cultivated and harvested vegetables to feed the members. They were also places where like-minded people could band together and question things like the concept of jealousy in a relationship or the notion of a ‘traditional family.’ People could explore and ideologically challenge societal norms.
I lived in two different communes. In the first one everyone had their own room and possessions and did their own chores and raised their own children. In the second one everything was shared – we all slept in the same room and shared our possessions. Also, instead of splitting the chores and child care amongst the members, everyone just did what they did best. If you liked cooking you cooked seven nights a week. If you liked raising children that’s what you did all the time, even if they weren’t your children. The kids in the commune were much more emotionally healthy because they had lots of adult role models to look up to, not just their own parents.
For me, the most important thing about the communes were their open and inclusive environments – it was okay to be gay there. You have to remember – even in the 1950’s they were giving gay people lobotomies because the American Psychiatric Association saw homosexuality as a serious mental disorder!
In the communes there were men and women that were gay, straight and bi-sexual. There was one woman who was happily married with a family and then her husband died and she started having relationships with other women. That’s the thing I learned while living there – sexuality is fluent. There was a sexologist named Alfred Kinsey who shocked the nation in the 1940’s and 1950’s when he posited that sexuality is not binary, but rather a spectrum, and that the vast majority of people have some homosexual tendencies. I think society is finally accepting that reality now, over 50 years later after Kinsey’s study was published…
Some people in my generation were perfectly comfortable coming out of the closet, but I wasn’t one of them. Everyone is different. Living in the communes was incredibly valuable because it allowed me to come out in a community that was safe and supportive. A place that allowed a gay man to be comfortable in his own skin. People say communes failed because they didn’t last long, but everyone I know who experienced them was changed forever.